Back to business: restaurant patios set to reopen across Nova Scotia

Patios are set to reopen across Nova Scotia this Wednesday, marking the return of in-person dining in the province after more than a month of lockdown.

It is a welcome relief for a beleaguered industry that has been relying on take-out only for more than a month during Nova Scotia’s third wave of COVID-19.

“It’s huge for us,” says Jon Whitton, General Manager of Antojo Tacos + Tequila in Halifax. “Between barriers, six foot separation, between both our patios, we think we can do 55-60 people.”

While many in the industry are ready to welcome customers back, not all bars and restaurants have patios, meaning they’ll have to wait for Phase Two of the province’s reopening plan, which could be two to four weeks away.

“I don’t think the two week thing is going to happen,” speculates Colin Grant, owner of Halifax’s Midtown Tavern. “I’m thinking after Canada Day, we’ll be open for 50 per cent capacity.”

The idea to begin restaurant reopening with outdoor dining is not unique to Nova Scotia.

“Most jurisdictions in Europe and America use that as a first step to reopen, followed by full indoor dining,” says Luc Erjavec, the Atlantic Vice President of Restaurants Canada.

As restaurant owners plan for their reopening, there is some concern in the industry that the federal government will wind down their wage and rent subsidy programs before business is back to normal.

Erjavec says it will be 12 to 18 months before restaurant owners will start to turn a profit, and he’s asking for help to bridge that gap.

“We're not going to be ready in June to start pulling those away from us, we need long term support in order to protect jobs that we produce in Nova Scotia, in every single community,” says Erjavec.

Jobs that will start to return when patios in the province reopen on Wednesday.